Despite the avalanche of grievances against the officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad unit of the Nigerian police that led to their disbandment, citizens of Imo are yet to take advantage of the judicial commission of inquiry set up by the Imo state government to look into their grievances.
Investigations revealed the paucity of petitions before the panel as more than fortnight after the inauguration of the panel and a week after their inaugural sitting only six petitions have so far been received by the commission.
Investigations further revealed that majority of those aggrieved persons might have been afraid to come forward for fear that appearing before the panel will be used against them in the future. It was gathered that some people are afraid as the accused personnel of the special anti-robbery squad who are still in service may come after them at the end of the exercise.
However the Secretary of the Commission, Isaac Oguzie, is optimistic that as the work progresses, more people will come out to air their grievances.
Speaking to News Echo in an interview, Oguzie, said that before the inaugural sitting of the commission, only two petitions were received while four more were turned it between Monday of the inaugural sitting and Thursday.
He said that most persons might have been afraid to come forward and present their petitions for fear of a possible backlash, stressing that the commission has stepped up enlightenment campaigns to prevail any aggrieved person to come forward.
Oguzie said, “We have received six petitions so far and I hope many are coming up. People may be afraid to present their petition, but they may be motivated when they see many other persons coming up. Apart from that, we have been mounting enlightenment campaigns on radio to create awareness.
“Our people were on radio this morning (Wednesday) and will be on the air subsequently. We are also trying to work according to the time given by the governor, but we may ask for more time if the need arises. All the police officers mentioned in the various petitions have been served through the office of the commissioner of police.”
Chairman of the Commission, Hon. Justice Florence Duruoha-Igwe, while speaking at the inaugural sitting, had urged those who felt aggrieved to come forward and ventilate their anger, as they have nothing to be afraid of, assuring them that commission would dispense justice without fear or favour.
She had said there was no need for anyone to be afraid if they have a genuine complaint against any member of the police as the job of the commission was to redress such injustice, stressing that there was no need sitting back grudgingly while an avenue had been given for anyone to seek redress.
The commission, according to the terms of reference is to receive and investigate complaints of police brutality and related extra-judicial killings, evaluate evidence presented and other surrounding circumstances and draw conclusions as to the validity of the complaints, determine police officers who were responsible for the brutality and recommend compensation and other remedial measures where appropriate.
While enumerating procedures for the assignment, the chairman had said that at the hearing the petitioner will be sworn-in or will affirm and then adopt his petition. If the petitioner is absent, but represented by counsel, the counsel the counsel could apply for the petition to be deemed adopted. However in the absence of the petitioner and his counsel, the petition will be deemed adopted.
She added that after the petition might have been adopted, the commission may ask question, if necessary. Thereafter the respondent or his counsel if available will cross-examine the petitioner, followed by to the commission while the petitioner’s counsel shall have right of a re-examination, stressing that where the petitioner is absent, the petition may be struck out or adjourned to enable the petitioner to appear for cross examination.